Someone on Twitter suggested that if a congressman had been killed during the January 6, 2021 insurrection, more than five senators would now support an impeachment trial.
If you believe this, you haven’t been paying attention.
All but five Republican senators voted to challenge the trial’s constitutionality. Hypocritical, yes. Surprising, no.
That Republicans should all of a sudden care about law and order, our institutions that uphold Democracy after Trump’s effort to overturn an election and four years of Trump ignoring the rule of law is equivalent to living in a world of fantasy.
Republicans have been beating the drum of a “rigged election” along with Trump since the election took place in November. Even though the election was not even close. Trump lost by seven million votes in the popular ballot and 306–232 in the Electoral College. It took Mitch McConnell, the then-Senate Majority Leader, a full month before congratulating Biden on his presidential win, offering legitimacy to Trump’s war on the truth.
So, on January 19, the day before Biden was sworn in as President when McConnell denounced Trump even more directly by speaking on the Senate floor, saying, “The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the President and other powerful people,” this did not mean for one second McConnell would end up doing the right thing.
“McConnell will always act ruthlessly when it serves his own interest. There is no way that McConnell has had an epiphany and will now change his fundamental approach,” said Norman Ornstein, a political scientist and an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
They’ve — both Trump and his party — have unleashed a monster they can’t contain. This country’s white supremacist movement isn’t new. What is new is they are now out from under the shadows, loud and proud, encouraged by a major party, the Republicans. A movement that had been growing more frustrated and furious at cancel culture, liberal elites, Hollywood, a woman running for the highest office, jobs going overseas as well as replaced by automation, equal rights for women and LGBTQ groups, and transgender people being able to use the appropriate bathroom. And now, the simple act of wearing a mask to protect themselves from a virus proven to be, get this, airborne and highly contagious. That’s not everything, but a start.
Republicans unleashed Trump. And couldn’t control him. Trump unleashed his base and couldn’t control them after they stormed the Capitol on January 6. Republicans certainly can’t control his base, but hey, as long as the base will stir up anger and dissent, so they can take back control of the Senate in 2022, it might be worth it to them even at the cost of Democracy and our institutions. Trump still has overwhelming popularity with the core base of the party.
What this tells us is what we’ve known. Republicans love power and their jobs more than the Constitution they have sworn to protect. More than Democracy. More than the Republic they work for.
When McConnell spoke out against Trump’s part in the insurrection, saying he “provoked the angry mob,” those paying attention knew he hadn’t suddenly grown a moral compass. He was biding his time, seeing which way the chips would fall, while calculating his next move. It is no secret that McConnell privately distains Trump. But, not for a minute did I think McConnel grew a backbone, moral conviction, or love of country overnight. As he always does, he was playing the angles. Waiting. Crafting his next move with steely precision. Always playing the long game to see which way he should turn to benefit himself and his party.
When Senator Rand Paul went forward with a constitution objection after the Senate convened as a court of impeachment, McConnell voted with the vast majority in favor of the challenge — that a person can’t be impeached while out of office.
This is how McConnell operates. As Majority Leader, McConnell refused Democrat’s requests to begin the impeachment trial two weeks ago when Trump was still president. Yesterday, McConnell turned around and sided with Senator Rand Paul’s argument that trying a former president was unconstitutional.
McConnell delayed the trial and then voted in favor of dismissing it because it was starting too late. Hypocritical, but on-brand.
Republicans are sticking with the loud base that has demonstrated their undying support for Trump and what he stands for — nationalism, anti-immigration, antisemitism, and white supremacy. The angry mob of QAnon believers, the Proud Boys, Boogaloo Bois, and groups largely made up of ex-military — the base that stormed Democracy and truth — now makes up the Republican base.
McConnell may make fun of them behind closed doors and wouldn’t be caught in the same social circles as the people who stormed the Capitol, just as he made fun of Trump behind his back, but he has no problem using them to take back power. He may call them thugs and think them clueless, ignorant, and easily manipulated, but he’ll use them to take back control. He knows full well the election was not only a win for Biden, he knows it was a big win, and perhaps why he’ll cling to anything, even this unhinged base.
If Trump can run in 2024, Republicans will back him. They will back him after he ordered a mob to attack the very place where they work. They will back him even though the insurrectionists were steps behind Vice President Mike Pence while chanting “Hand Mike Pence!” before he was ushered to an undisclosed location. They will back Trump even though their colleagues’ lives, people they work with closely, were in danger. They will back him at the peril of sacred institutions, the Constitution, and our Democracy.
At all costs.
Because of Trump’s lies — lies backed by Republicans in the Senate — more than 8 in 10 Trump voters think Biden’s win is not legitimate. That is a large number of people who aren’t living in reality.
Only five members of the Republican party joined Democrats for “incitement of insurrection” at the Capitol in a vote to go forward with Trump’s impeachment trial.
The other 45 Republican senators say a Trump conviction is unconstitutional because he is no longer in office. Even though he clearly urged his supporters to storm the Capitol on January 6, telling them to “fight like hell,” after months of saying the election was rigged at rallies as well as on Twitter. And was impeached while still in office.
It will take 67 votes — two-thirds of senators — to attain a conviction after the trial, which begins February 9, 2021.
A group of 150 prominent legal scholars, including a founder of the conservative Federalist Society, wrote last week, “The framers did not design the Constitution’s checks and balances to be so easily undermined. History supports a reading of the Constitution that allows Congress to impeach, try, convict, and disqualify former officers.”
Basically, constitutional scholars argue that if an official could only be disqualified while he or she still held office, then an official who betrayed the public trust and was impeached could avoid accountability simply by resigning one minute before the Senate’s final conviction vote.
Don’t hold your breath for Republicans to suddenly start caring about the Constitution or the democratic process it upholds come February.
We may see a Trump run in 2024. And no one should be surprised by that.